Can You Eat Tarpon? (Answer & Best Recipes!)

Tarpon is generally considered to be smelly, distasteful, and potentially dangerous to eat. Most people will refuse to eat this type of fish, however, they are edible. Both tarpon and catfish are edible, however, their strong odor and the number of bones put a lot of people off eating them.

Tarpon is Edible

Tarpon and saltwater catfish are both edible however, they do not present a very appetizing dining experience and many people will avoid eating them. These fish have a strong smell, a lot of bones, serrated fins, and a mild amount of toxins, however, they are not inedible. 

These fish are not inedible, however, most people avoid eating them because of practicality and the difficulties and challenges that they present. They are not simple or easy to catch or prepare for eating. They may not taste too bad, however, their smell and a large number of bones, make it a less than enjoyable fish to eat. 

There are some things that you should consider before you decide to prepare a tarpon or catfish for your evening meal. They are not the easiest fish to catch and there are challenges when it comes to handling and preparing them. It is necessary to consider these potential difficulties and decide whether the meal is worth the trouble. 

Tarpon Characteristics

Tarpon usually weighs between sixty and two-hundred and eighty pounds. This big fish is among some of the world’s most prized fish. Anglers all of the world respect and covet this species due to the difficulty and challenge that they present when catching them. While it has no real commercial value, the tarpon is an impressive fish that offers a challenge to any angler that is ready to take it on. 

The tarpon is an ancient fish species and is known because of its distinctive habit of swimming toward the water’s surface to swallow air. This process enables them to breathe through their swim bladder. This is highly unusual as fish normally use their swim bladder for buoyancy and use their gills to intake oxygen instead. Even at a young age, this fish breathes air at the surface of the water. 

While this “gulping” at the surface may initially seem to be a disadvantage, it enables the fish to survive in areas of low oxygen as they can “gulp” oxygen at the surface of the water instead. 

Cooking Tarpon

In Florida, tarpon is a popular game fish however people rarely decide to eat them because of the high amount of bones that the meat contains. They are also said to have a poor taste. 

Poached Tarpon

If you do decide to take on the challenge of catching and eating a tarpon, consider poaching it and covering the fish with spices to cover its pungent aroma. Fill a pot with broth and put it on a high heat. If the tarpon fillets are large, cut them into smaller pieces so that they will fit in a pot. 

As the broth starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium, and once the boiling slows down to a simmer, you can place the filets into it. Allow the fish to cook for around ten minutes and then take the pot off the heat. Use a slotted spatula or spoon to lift the fish out of the water and put it on a platter to cool. 

Once the fish is cool enough to touch, manually pick the bones out of the fish meat. Put the meat into a bowl and throw away the bones. 

Tarpon Fishcakes

You may also decide to make fishcakes out of your freshly caught tarpon. Once you have poached the meat and removed the bones, put the fish into a food processor. Briefly blend it into small chunks rather than a smooth paste. Put the ground fish meat back into the bowl. 

Add a chopped onion, chopped green pepper, two to three pounds of mashed potato, four egg whites, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, a teaspoon of garlic powder, two teaspoons of paprika, one teaspoon of cayenne and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Mash the mixture with a fork until smooth and combined. 

Dust your kitchen counter with a small amount of flour and place a heaped spoon of the mixture into your hand. Roll the mixture into a smooth ball and slightly flatten it with the palm of your hand into a cake shape. Repeat until you have used up all of the mixture. 

Put two tablespoons of oil into a frying pan on a medium to high heat. Once the oil is hot, place the fish cakes into the pan and allow them to cook for around three to four minutes until the edges are crispy and turning brown. Remove the fish cakes once they are cooked through and allow them to drain on a paper towel. 

Repeat the process until all of the fish cakes are cooked. You can keep the cooked cakes warm in the over until you are frying the rest of them.

Tarpon Tips/Warnings

Make sure to remove the skin and fat of the fish before you cook it to reduce the exposure to any potential contaminants. 

When cooking fish, make sure to cook it thoroughly and avoid undercooking fish. The United States Department of Health recommends cooking fish until it reaches at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit internally. When it reaches this temperature, the meat will appear opaque and flake easily from the bone. 

If you decide to catch your own tarpon and intend to prepare it to eat, make sure you are aware of whether your state or country requires you to have a permit to keep this fish. If you do not have a permit in these locations, you are legally required to return the fish to the water. 

To Sum Up

Tarpon is notoriously difficult to catch and provide a challenge to every angler that attempts to fish them. While they are edible, they are known for their pungent smell and high amount of bones. Most people choose to avoid eating them because of these reasons. 

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